Silk City

Silk City Diner

Photo by Ryan Charles

It’s been a case of revolving chefs at Silk City since it opened but hopefully there’s some stability now and the kitchen can start clicking on all cylinders.

So it was back to chicken wings-by-the-pound on Oct. 1 with a brand-new chef, Matt Ball, formerly of Deuce. He has largely taken his cues from Dunmire’s earlier menu – and those plump and crispy wings, glazed in a buttery hot sauce that tickles your nose with vinegary heat, are worth the encore. But Ball has also added his own nice twists.

His “ultimate BLT” is exactly the kind of comfort-food upgrade that Silk City needs – true in spirit to classic Americana, but amplified by a clever touch and better ingredients. From the boar bacon and rustic bread to the layer of fried green tomatoes with spicy sriracha mayonnaise, every element recalls the original but delivers a deeper, more savory resonance.

Silk City’s best dishes are the starters, like the quesadillas stuffed with tender pulled BBQ pork and crunchy pickles(!), empanadas stuffed with chipotle-braised chicken, heartily spiced chili, and excellent calamari and rock shrimp fried in a cornmeal crust. The Thai-styled baby back ribs were also great, slicked with a sweet chile sauce and peanuts.

Two Bells – Very Good

Silk City [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Silk City [MySpace]
Silk City Diner [Official Site]


Craig LaBan likes Bluefin in Plymouth Meeting even if he thinks it getting the same food rating as Morimoto is a bit insane.

It’s an obvious case of Zagat-flation, where a core of devoted zealots have gotten carried away with love for their local haunt. That’s not to say Bluefin isn’t a worthy neighborhood destination for sushi. This plain little room has plenty of virtues, including a good selection of high-quality fish for a fair price, a few notable signature rolls, and a lively young staff that is friendly and efficient.

But let’s put it in a fairer perspective. Bluefin is more solidly in the upper middle class of the local sushi scene than one of its elite destinations, such as Morimoto, Fuji or Sagami, whose rare ingredients or master craftsmanship set them apart.

Two Bells – Very Good

Bluefin [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Honey in Doylestown

Craig LaBan tastes Honey in Doylestown. Not surprisingly honey plays a major role in the dishes, sometimes for good, sometimes for bad.

Whether McAtee scores or stumbles, he does it with exuberance. It’s a likable enthusiasm that infuses every aspect of Honey, including its friendly and generally well-prepared servers, who were charming even when they didn’t have all the answers about the small American wine list.

Two Bells – Very Good

Honey [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Honey [Official Site]

Coquette Gets 2 Bells

Coquette Bistro & Wine Bar

Photo by Ryan Charles

Craig LaBan takes in Coquette, the star-crossed French bistro at the restaurant black hole of 5th and Bainbridge.

Coquette, it seems, has the classic aplomb – and timeless concept – to survive brushes with disaster like Pearl White in The Perils of Pauline. Like any good flirt (that’s “coquette” in French), Neff’s boite has the retro-Paris look down pat, from the hexagon-tiled floor, tin ceiling and ’30s lamps inside to the rattan cafe chairs that gaze out onto this boulevard stretch of Bainbridge Street.

The room pulses with the noisy energy of an authentic neighborhood bistro. And much of the young clientele on my final visit was even dressed for the part, one done up for date night in Marseilles sailor stripes and an anchor tattoo with a glass of lambic, another whose curly tresses were pinned high with a Moulin Rouge carnation.

The French bistro fare is served with just enough success (especially given the reasonable prices) by Jeremy Nolen, who was a sous-chef when the restaurant opened.

Two Bells – Very Good

Coquette Bistro & Raw Bar [Philadelphia Inquirer]

LaBan Reviews Liberian Restaurant

Craig LaBan goes way off the grid this week in his review of Memdee’s, a Liberian restaurant in Southwest Philadelphia.

Tucked deep in the residential heart of Elmwood at 68th and Guyer, Memdee’s is the kind of restaurant even the most dedicated food tourist might never find. But I’ll count us among the lucky. After dipping into a powerfully soulful bowl of a starchy orb of fufu and soup, it was clear that this Liberian kitchen produces flavors worth seeking out.

Two Bells – Very Good

Memdee’s [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Ida Mae’s For Breakfast, Lunch Or Dinner

In a review sure to get Philebrity riled up Craig LaBan drops “funky” three times in his review of Fishtown’s Ida Mae’s. But he finds the food good in the AM or the PM.

Ida’s chef and co-owner, Mary Kate McCaughey, always knew she wanted a “bruncherie” because of the sense of community that morning meal taps. And she’s a local, having grown up in Port Richmond and Fishtown, where as a girl she used to buy penny candy at the grocery Ida’s eventually replaced.

That corner space, most recently a coffee shop, was transformed by Mary Kate’s husband, Feargus McCaughey, into a charmingly cozy cafe, with a bustling counterside grill in front, and a rear dining room that feels like a well-kept parlor, with stained-glass windows, wooden banquettes, arty photos, and granite cafe tables.

Those seats hum to capacity on weekends. And though our mellow mop-topped waiter could have moved with more pep (and remembered the water, o.j., and cutlery), the kitchen works like a well-buttered machine (about a pound of it goes into the creamed chipped beef).

Two Bells – Very Good

Ida Mae’s [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Ida Mae’s [Official Site]

Talula’s Table

Talula’s Table

Craig LaBan doesn’t give out any bells to Talula’s Table but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of his favorite meals of the year. Instead of giving a formal review of the Kennett Square market LaBan walks us through his meal and how the former owners of Django wound up in Chester County.

Word of Talula’s farmhouse-table tasting dinners, served to just one group of 8 to 12 a night, four or five nights a week, has wafted far across the foodie grapevine like a very warm and tempting breeze. Kennett Square is a long hour’s drive from Center City at the height of evening traffic. Could it possibly be worth the anticipation of a reservation made nearly two months in advance?

Olexy and her staff immediately began pouring from the bottles of chilled Sancerre brought by one of my guests. (All the wines are BYO.) And as I nibbled hungrily on warm puff pastry breadsticks perfumed with butter and a whiff of anchovy, I took an eager glance at the artfully printed menus laid at our place settings.

One of the best meals I’ve eaten all year was about to unfold.

From Django to Kennett Square [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Talula’s Table [Official Site]



Photo by Ryan Charles

Craig LaBan reviews Salento, the newish Italian BYOB at 23rd and Walnut. He finds Salento a “worthy addition” to the crowded Italian BYO scene.

What Salento may lack in warm decor and pure comfort (the room is incredibly noisy, despite sound treatments), the restaurant more than compensates for in outgoing service and genuine flavors.

The menu’s style is similar to L’Angolo’s, though it mostly avoids duplication, and Faenza focuses on the aspects – bean dishes, seafood, and game ragus – that distinguish his region and hometown of Gallipoli.

Two Bells – Very Good

Salento [Philadelphia Inquirer]

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